The Director of the CIA has claimed Russian election interference has not stopped and it can be expected to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

"I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity," Mike Pompeo told the BBC.

"I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I'm confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election (and) that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won't be great," he said.

The leading US intelligence agencies concluded at the end of 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed a broad intelligence effort to influence the presidential election that year to undermine the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump's chances.

That effort included hacking and releasing emails and documents from the Clinton campaign and filling social media with posts and "news" items aimed at discrediting her.

Mr Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea that Russia helped him and allegations his campaign colluded with the Russians as fake news.

Mr Pompeo, whom Mr Trump appointed to the US spy agency, has deftly avoided that controversy while emphasising he accepts the conclusions of his predecessor.

The 2018 midterm elections will involve all of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and 33 senators.

In the elections, minority Democrats will be battling to try to take control of the two houses from Mr Trump's Republicans.

Mr Pompeo also told the BBC that the US has tried to help European governments to push back against Russian attempts to influence domestic politics.

He also said that China was trying to steal US information and spread covert influence around the world.

Panel votes to release Republican memo

Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release a classified memo that Republicans say shows anti-Trump bias by the FBI and the Justice Department in seeking a warrant to conduct an intelligence eavesdropping operation.

In approving the release under a rule never before invoked, the Republican majority ignored a warning from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd that making the document public would be "extraordinarily reckless" without submitting it to a security review.

The move added new fuel to bitter partisan wrangling over investigations by congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Two sources familiar with the memo said it accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of abusing their authority in asking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to approve a request to extend an eavesdropping operation on Carter Page, an adviser to Mr Trump's 2016 campaign.

The memo charges that the FBI and the Justice Department based the request on a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired to dig up negative information on Mr Trump by a research firm partially financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, the sources said.

Elsewhere, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted a US surveillance plane over the Black Sea yesterday, prompting the US State Department to protest that it was as "an unsafe interaction".

The encounter, first reported by Russia's RIA news agency, cited the defence ministry as saying the US Navy aircraft did not violate Russian air space.

The US State Department said the Russian jet "engaged in an unsafe interaction with a US EP-3 in international airspace, closing to within 5 feet (1.5 metres) and crossing directly in front of the EP-3's flight path".

"This is but the latest example of Russian military activities disregarding international norms and agreements," it said, calling on Russia "to cease these unsafe actions".

"After the surveillance plane of the US Navy had changed its course to move away from the border, the Su-27 returned to its base," RIA quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying.

Officials confirm McCabe steps down from FBI

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, criticised by President Donald Trump and other Republicans for alleged bias against him and in favour of his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has stepped down, US officials have confirmed.

Mr McCabe, who served as acting Federal Bureau of Investigation chief for more than two months last year after Mr Trump fired Director James Comey, had been expected to leave his post in March.

The FBI said that David Bowdich would take over as acting deputy director.

It did not comment on the circumstances surrounding Mr McCabe'sdeparture.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, asked about Mr McCabe's departure, told reporters: "I can tell you the president wasn't part of this decision-making process."

Ms Sanders said Mr Trump continued to have "full confidence" in FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Mr Trump to replace Mr Comey.

Mr McCabe had intended to stay on the job for about six more weeks when he becomes eligible for retirement, but decided to leave earlier rather than be transferred to a lower-ranking post, according to a former senior FBI official familiar with the matter.

The earlier departure came amid concerns about an upcoming Justice Department inspector general report scrutinising the actions of Mr McCabe and other top FBI officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, the official said.

During that period, the FBI investigated Trump campaign connections to Russia and Mrs Clinton's use of a private email server while she was US secretary of state.

No charges were brought against Mrs Clinton.